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11 Useless things to stop wasting your money on in 2017

January 19th, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Financial News

shutterstock_416197102Whether it’s paying a late fee or snagging a candy bar while waiting in the checkout line, it’s all too easy to spend mindlessly and waste money. But that cash could be directed toward your savings goals or growing substantially in a retirement account.

“We all have room to set aside a little money for our future,” certified financial planner Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz tells CNBC. “A good habit to develop in 2017 is to take on a more mindful approach to spending.”

Step one is to identify where you’re wasting money. Do any of these purchases sound familiar?

ATM fees

It’ll cost you a record high of $4.57 to withdraw money from an out-of-network ATM. There’s no reason to continue paying these fees, which can add up significantly over time.

A simple 2017 resolution: If your bank’s logo isn’t on the ATM, don’t use it.

If you use one of the traditional, bigger banks, there should be ATM options in your area. Simply look up the locations online and put in the extra effort to get to one of your bank’s ATMs. If there aren’t any convenient ATM options in your city or town, you may want to consider opening a checking account with a more accessible bank.

Late fees

Like ATM fees, late fees are a pointless money suck. And there’s more to late payments than simply paying a fee. Missing payments can also lower your credit score, which affects your ability to borrow money for bigger purchases, like a home or car, in the near future.

Never miss a bill again by setting up automatic payments online for fixed costs such as cable, internet, and insurance. For expenses that can’t be paid online, such as rent, set up calendar reminders and pay them at the same time each month so it becomes routine.

Underused subscriptions

“Nothing makes a company happier than getting its customers to sign up for subscriptions,” writes Yahoo tech columnist David Pogue in his 2016 book, “Pogue’s Basics: Money.”

“Millions of people sign up for 30-day free trials of things, intending to cancel within 30 days — and then they forget. Or they sign up for certain services but have long since stopped using them.”

Look over your last couple of credit card statements and figure out exactly what you’re paying for, whether it be subscriptions to magazines, software, or online services. Next, ask yourself which you can eliminate, and cancel them on the spot to save a couple hundred dollars a year.

You could also use Trim, which automatically finds and cancels your subscriptions with a text.

Buying lunch every day

Eating out can add up quickly. The more food you can prepare at home, the better off your food budget will be. Plus, packing lunch also tends to be better for your waistline.

Of course, it’s OK to treat yourself and buy the occasional meal out, but if you’re aiming to hit major financial goals in 2017, going homemade is one of the simplest ways to cut back without making dramatic sacrifices.

Bottled water

While you’re getting into the habit of packing your lunch, start filling up a water bottle too.

“Most people who buy water in bottles do it for convenience,” notes Pogue. “If you carry a water bottle with you, you spend nothing. (And lose weight. And live longer.)”

Cable

“The average American cable-TV bill is $100 a month,” writes Pogue. That’s a large sum to pay for a service that people often don’t take full advantage of.

Consider cutting the cord and getting your TV from the internet, through services like Netfilx ($8 a month), Hulu ($8 a month), or HBO Now ($15 a month).

Cable box and modem

If you decide you simply can’t live without your cable, at least buy your own cable box and modem.

“As though the cable companies weren’t already milking you dry with the cost of the TV service, they’re also charging you about $235 a year to rent the cable box,” writes Pogue. “You can buy your own replacement cable box for $120 (pays for itself in eight months).”

The same goes for the cable modem. “The damage is about $10 a month, forever,” Pogue says, of the renting option. “Buy your own cable modem for $100, return the one you’ve been renting, and boom: a $120-a-year savings.”

Extra smartphone data

“The cell phone carriers hope you’ll go over your monthly allotment [of data],” says Pogue. “If you do, they slap absurd overage charges onto your bill.”

To never pay an overage charge again, install a “fuel gauge” app, like DataMan or My Data Manger, which will monitor the data you use and warn you if you’re approaching your monthly limit. Pogue also suggests identifying the “gas-guzzlers”: “Different apps use different amounts of data, and you might be astonished to see which ones are the guilty parties.”

Finally, use Wi-Fi whenever you possibly can. When you’re connected to Wi-Fi, you’re not using any of your data allowance.

Excess groceries

Collectively, we waste a lot of food. Every time you throw away excess groceries, that’s money down the drain.

Before you grocery shop, think about the meals you’re going to make for the week and write down exactly what ingredients you’ll need to prepare those meals. When you actually go to the store, stick to just the ingredients on your list.

Brand-name products

Going generic — for groceries, toiletries, or pet supplies — is an easy way to save money over time. As Pogue reports, “store brands cost around 30 percent less than national brands.”

You don’t have to buy generic for everything. Identify what’s really important to you and what you’re willing to sacrifice — then, buy brand-name for the stuff you care about and go generic for everything else.

Impulse buys

From grocery stores to department stores, retailers have a way of tricking you into spending money mindlessly. One tactic is loading the checkout aisle with tempting products: cold sodas, candy bars, and 99-cent knick knacks. After all, your self-control is likely spent by the time you’re done shopping, and stores bank on you giving into that pack of gum.

Skip the candy or magazine and redirect that $5 toward your savings goals or retirement account, where it could grow significantly over time.

Saving $1 Million for Retirement

January 19th, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Financial News

How can you plan to do it? What kind of financial commitment will it take?

How many of us will retire with $1 million or more in savings?
More of us ought to – in fact, more of us may shutterstock_240575053need to, given inflation and the rising cost of health care.

Sadly, few pre-retirees have accumulated that much. A 2015 Government Accountability Office analysis found that the average American aged 55-64 had just $104,000 in retirement money. A 2016 GoBankingRates survey determined that only 13% of Americans had retirement savings of $300,000 or more.1,2

A $100,000 or $300,000 retirement fund might be acceptable if our retirements lasted less than a decade, as was the case for some of our parents. As many of us may live into our eighties and nineties, we may need $1 million or more in savings to avoid financial despair in our old age.

The earlier you begin saving, the more you can take advantage of compound interest. A 25-year-old who directs $405 a month into a tax-advantaged retirement account yielding an average of 7% annually will wind up with $1 million at age 65. Perhaps $405 a month sounds like a lot to devote to this objective, but it only gets harder if you wait. At the same rate of return, a 30-year-old would need to contribute $585 per month to the same retirement account to generate $1 million by age 65.3

The Census Bureau says that the median household income in this country is $53,657. A 45-year-old couple earning that much annually would need to hoard every cent they made for 19 years (and pay no income tax) to end up with $1 million at age 64, absent of investments. So, investing may come to be an important part of your retirement plan.4

What if you are over 40, what then? You still have a chance to retire with $1 million or more, but you must make a bigger present-day financial commitment to that goal than someone younger.

At age 45, you will need to save around $1,317 per month in a tax-advantaged retirement account yielding 10% annually to have $1 million in 20 years. If the account returns just 6% annually, then you would need to direct approximately $2,164 a month into it.4

What if you start trying to build that $1 million retirement fund at age 50? If your retirement account earns a solid 10% per year, you would still need to put around $2,413 a month into it; at a 6% yearly return, the target contribution becomes about $3,439 a month.4

This math may be startling, but it is also hard to argue with. If you are between age 55-65 and have about $100,000 in retirement savings, you may be hard-pressed to adequately finance your future. There are three basic ways to respond to this dilemma. You can choose to live on Social Security, plus the principal and yield from your retirement fund, and risk running out of money within several years (or sooner). Alternately, you can cut your expenses way down – share housing, share or forgo a car, etc., which could preserve more of your money. Or, you could try to work longer, giving your invested retirement savings a chance for additional growth, and explore ways to create new income streams.

How long will a million-dollar retirement fund last? If it is completely uninvested, you could draw down about $35,000 a year from it for 28 years. The upside here is that your invested retirement assets could grow and compound notably during your “second act” to help offset the ongoing withdrawals. The downside is that you will have to contend with inflation and, potentially, major healthcare expenses, which could reduce your savings faster than you anticipate.

So, while $1 million may sound like a huge amount of money to amass for retirement, it really is not – certainly not for a retirement beginning twenty or thirty years from now. Having $2 million or $3 million on hand would be preferable.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/011216/average-retirement-savings-age-2016.asp [12/8/16]
2 – time.com/money/4258451/retirement-savings-survey/ [3/14/16]
3 – interest.com/retirement-planning/news/how-to-save-1-million-for-retirement/ [12/12/16]
4 – reviewjournal.com/business/money/how-realistically-save-1-million-retirement [5/20/16]

Could You Improve Your Personal Finances Today?

December 20th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Financial News

Simple decisions & new habits might lead you toward a better financial future.
shutterstock_510399298

In life, there are times when simple decisions can have a profound impact. The same holds true when it comes to personal finance. Here are some simple choices you could make that may leave you better off financially – in the near term, the long term, or both.

Use less credit. Every time you pay with cash instead of credit, you are saving pennies on the dollar – actually, dimes on the dollar. At the start of December, the average “low interest” credit card in America charged users 12.45%, the average cash back card 17.15%. If you want to see your bank balance grow, try consistently paying in cash. There is no need to pay extra money when you pay for something.1

Set up automated contributions to retirement plans & investment accounts. By automating your per-paycheck salary deferrals to your workplace retirement plan or your IRA, you remove the chore (and the psychological hurdle) of having to make lump-sum contributions. You can bolster invested assets with regular inflows of new money, without even thinking about it. Often, arranging these recurring account contributions takes 20 minutes or less of your time.2

Bundle your insurance. Many insurers will give you a discount if you turn to them for multiple policies (home and auto, possibly other combinations). This may help you reduce your overall insurance costs.

Live somewhere less expensive. Sure, it takes money to move, but that one-time cost might be worth absorbing, especially if you can perform your job anywhere. A look at the December United States Rent Report at ApartmentList.com reveals that the median rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles is $1,900. The median rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in Spokane is $630. What is the median rent for a 2-bedroom apartment in Boston? $3,200. How about in Fayetteville, North Carolina? $700.3

Look into refinancing your largest debts. Perhaps your student loans could be consolidated. Perhaps you could qualify for a refi on your mortgage (while rates are still low). Both of these moves could free up money and leave you with more financial “breathing room” each month.

Spend less money on “stuff” and more money on yourself. Many people associate possessions with well-being – the more “toys” you have, the richer your life becomes. That kind of thinking can quickly put you deep in debt. You may find yourself living on margin as your “toys” depreciate.

A wise alternative: pay yourself first and direct more of your income into retirement or savings accounts. Or if you like, use some money you would normally spend on creature comforts to attack your debt. Instead of simply entertaining yourself today, make money moves on behalf of your financial future. Too many people give their financial future little thought, and they may be in for a shock when they reach retirement age.

We all want to splurge now and then, but try spending money on memorable experiences instead of flashy items – you may find the former many times more valuable than the latter.

Forgo several purchases a month and see what happens. A recent SunTrust bank survey found that roughly a third of U.S. households earning $75,000 or more live paycheck to paycheck. Earlier this year, Money noted that the average household credit card balance was nearly $16,000. In short, people are spending too much.4

Some expenses are obligatory, others spur-of-the-moment and unexamined. Pause and think before you buy something; do you really need it? If you separate your needs from your wants and say no to several of them, you may find yourself living a simpler life with less debt and more cash.

Spend less than what you make, invest and save some of the difference – this is the classic path toward improving your financial situation.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

«RepresentativeDisclosure»

Citations.
1 – bankrate.com/finance/credit-cards/current-interest-rates.aspx [12/1/16]
2 – forbes.com/sites/robertberger/2016/05/14/20-ways-to-improve-your-finances-in-under-20-minutes/ [5/14/16]
3 – apartmentlist.com/rentonomics/national-rent-data/ [12/1/16]
4 – time.com/money/4320973/why-you-are-poor/ [6/6/16]

Is Women’s Wealth Growing Faster Than Men’s Wealth?

December 20th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Financial News

One study says yes. Two major factors may be influencing the trend.

shutterstock_171399218Picture the women of the world growing wealthier. It’s happening right now. Research from the Boston Consulting Group affirms this development. BCG, a leading business strategy advisor, says that as the world grew 5.2% wealthier between 2015 and 2016, women’s wealth grew 6.6%. In total, women own about $39.6 trillion in assets worldwide, and possess a 5% greater share of global wealth in 2016 than they did in 2011.1

What are some of the reasons behind this shift? One reason is that more women are becoming successful business owners. Census Bureau data from 2012 (the most recently available year, at this writing) shows women owning 36% of U.S. businesses, a 30% leap from the levels of 2007. As the ranks of middle market companies rose 4% from 2008-2014, the number of women-owned or women-led middle market firms soared by 32%.2

This has all taken place even though female entrepreneurs typically start a business with 50% less money than their male peers, according to research from the National Women’s Business Council. Perhaps most impressive has been the growth of businesses owned by Latina and African-American women. American Express OPEN found that from 1997-2015, the number of U.S. firms owned by Latinas increased by 224%. Simultaneously, the number of businesses owned by black women rose by 322%. African-American women started up companies at six times the national average during those 18 years.2,3

Beyond the business world, there is a second major reason for the increased net worth of women. They are acquiring or inheriting significant wealth from parents, spouses, or relatives, some of whom are millionaire baby boomers or members of thriving business-class households in emerging economies.1

In reference to the latter phenomenon, the net worth of women who live in Asia-Pacific nations other than Japan has risen by an average of 13% a year since 2011. Globally, assets under management owned by female investors grew 8% per year in that time.1

The BCG white paper projects that women may grow even wealthier by 2020. It forecasts that by then, women will control $72.1 trillion of assets around the globe, thanks to their collective wealth increasing by about 7% a year.1

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

«RepresentativeDisclosure»

Citations.
1 – time.com/money/4360112/womens-wealth-share-increase/ [6/7/16]
2 – forbes.com/sites/geristengel/2016/01/06/why-the-force-will-be-with-women-entrepreneurs-in-2016/ [1/6/16]
3 – blackenterprise.com/small-business/black-women-business-owners-outpace-all-other-startups-six-times-national-average/ [3/4/16]

What if You Find a Mistake in Your Retirement Plan?

December 20th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Financial News

How common is this? How can you try to correct it if it occurs?

shutterstock_176972168Your latest retirement plan account statement arrives in your email inbox. You take a look at it – and something seems amiss. “That can’t be right,” you say to yourself. There must be some kind of mistake. Who should you talk to about this? Who can fix it?

Mistakes do happen with retirement plans. As a consultant to these programs told the trade journal PLANSPONSOR, they are “ubiquitous.” In fact, they are so prevalent that the Internal Revenue Service devotes more than 20 web pages to helping employers fix them over at irs.gov.1,2

A small business has much on its collective mind, and sometimes its retirement savings program may get short shrift. Errors may occur regarding ongoing salary deferral amounts, plan participant loans, or company matches when an employee’s pay is boosted by tips or bonuses. In the case of traditional pension plans, an employer may even pay the retired worker too much.

How can you detect mistakes? Look at your paystubs consistently to make sure your account balance reflects your contributions. This will not be a direct relationship because of compound interest and yield over the years, but if something is really off, it should be evident. If you happen to have taken a loan from your plan, check to see that the balance reflects this. If you have changed your investment mix or the percentage of salary you defer into the plan per paycheck, examine your account statements over the next several months or year to confirm that these changes are carried out.

How can you try to fix these errors? You should turn to the plan sponsor (your employer) first. Approach your employer’s human resources department according to procedure. Read the rules for addressing such mistakes within the summary plan description (the booklet about the plan that you should have received at or shortly after your enrollment) and bring your account statements with you. Your employer will want to know about any potential mistake, because if it is not corrected, it could mean trouble with the IRS.1,3

About 40% of all workplace retirement plans in America are sponsored by companies with less than 10 employees. In such cases, your human resources contact may, effectively, be your boss. How should you bring up such a delicate matter to him or her?3

One, meet with your boss privately and be very polite. Maintain a pleasant attitude. Avoid appearing disgruntled. The conversation could awaken your boss to the need for better administration, better supervision of the plan.

If the answers you get at work don’t seem adequate, then contact the plan provider (the investment firm that furnishes the plan for your employer). You could also ask the financial professional who consults you to look into the matter on your behalf.

If you have retired after participating in a pension plan and you wish to challenge what you feel is a mistake, you may want to contact the Pension Rights Center at 888-420-6550 or via its website, pensionhelp.org.4

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

«RepresentativeDisclosure»

Citations.
1 – plansponsor.com/Plan-Sponsors-Should-Be-Aware-of-Common-Errors/ [6/1/15]
2 – irs.gov/retirement-plans/plan-sponsor/fixing-common-plan-mistakes [9/15/16]
3 – thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2014/01/08/How-Convince-Your-Employer-Fix-Your-401k [1/8/14]
4 – marketwatch.com/story/what-happens-when-theres-a-mistake-in-your-401k-2016-10-24 [10/24/16]

Mind Over Money

November 18th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Financial News

Emotion often drives our financial decisions, even when logic should.

imagesWhen we go to the grocery store, we seldom shop on logic alone. We may not even buy on price. We buy one type of yogurt over another because of brand loyalty, or because one brand has more appealing packaging than another. We buy five bananas because they are on sale for 29 cents this week – the bargain is right there; why not seize the opportunity? We pick up that gourmet ice cream that everyone gets – if everyone buys it, it must be a winner.

As casual and arbitrary as these decisions may be, they are remarkably like the decisions many investors make in the financial markets.

A degree of emotion also factors into many of our financial choices. There is even a discipline devoted to how our emotions affect our financial decisions: behavioral finance. Examples of emotionally driven financial behaviors are all around us, especially in the investment markets.

Behavior #1: Believing future performance relates to past performance. In truth, there is no relation. If an investment yields 8-10% for six consecutive years, that does not mean it will yield 8-10% next year. Still, we may be lulled into expecting such performance – how can you go wrong with such a “rock solid” investment? In behavioral finance, this is called recency bias. Bullish investors tend to harbor it, and it may lead to irrational exuberance.1

Similarly, investors adjust risk tolerance in light of past performance. If their portfolio returned spectacularly last year, they may be tempted to accept more risk this year. If they took major losses in the equity markets last year, they may become very risk-averse and get out of equities. Both behaviors assume the future will be like the past, when the future is really unknown.1

Behavior #2: Investing on familiarity. Familiarity bias encourages you to make investment or consumer choices that are “friendly” and comfortable to you, even when they may be illogical. You go with what you know, without investigating what you don’t know or looking at other options. Another example of familiarity bias is when you invest in a company or a sector largely because you are attracted to or familiar with its “story” – its history, its reputation.2

Behavior #3: Ignoring negative trends. This is known as the ostrich effect. We can ignore the reality of a correction or a bear market; we can ignore the fact that our credit card debt is increasing. Studies suggest that investors check in on their portfolios with less frequency during market slumps – they would rather not know the degree of damage.3

Behavior #4: Wanting decisions to pay off now. Patience tends to be a virtue in both equity investing and real estate investing, but we may suffer from hyperbolic discounting – a bias in which we want a quick payoff today rather than an even larger one that might result someday if we buy and hold.3

Behavior #5: Falling for a decoy. When given a third consumer choice, instead of two consumer choices, we may choose a different product than we originally would, and perhaps make a choice we would not have otherwise considered. Once, an ad in The Economist offered three kinds of subscriptions: $59 for online only, $159 for print only, and $159 for online + print. The $159 print-only option was an illustration of the decoy effect – the choice existed seemingly just to make the $159 online + print option look like a better deal.3

Behavior #6: Seeing patterns where none exist. This is called the clustering illusion. You see it in casinos where a slot machine pays out twice an hour, and people line up to play that “lucky” machine, which has, in fact, just paid out randomly. Some investors fall prey to it in the markets.3

Behavior #7: Following the herd. The more consumers or investors that subscribe to a particular belief, the greater the chance of other consumers or investors to join the herd, or “jump on the bandwagon,” for good or bad. This is the bandwagon effect.3

Behavior #8: Buying the amount of something that we are marketed. In our minds, we believe that there is an optimal amount of something per purchase. This is called unit bias, and when marketing suggests the ideal amount should be larger, we buy more of that product or service.3

There are dozens of biases we may harbor, temporarily or regularly, all subjects of study in the discipline of behavioral finance. Recognizing them may help us to become a better consumer, and even a better investor.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – marketwatch.com/story/a-financial-plan-to-help-you-simplify-and-succeed-2016-09-23 [9/23/16]
2 – abcnews.go.com/Business/stock-stories-fairy-tales/story?id=42529959 [10/3/16]
3 – businessinsider.com/cognitive-biases-2015-10 [10/29/15]

Your Year-End Financial Checklist

November 18th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Financial News

Seven aspects of your financial life to review as the year draws to a close.

accountant-accounting-adviser-advisor-159804The end of a year makes us think about last-minute things we need to address and good habits we want to start keeping. To that end, here are seven aspects of your financial life to think about as this year leads into the next…

Your investments. Review your approach to investing and make sure it suits your objectives. Look over your portfolio positions and revisit your asset allocation.

Your retirement planning strategy. Does it seem as practical as it did a few years ago? Are you able to max out contributions to IRAs and workplace retirement plans like 401(k)s? Is it time to make catch-up contributions? Finally, consider Roth IRA conversion scenarios, and whether the potential tax-free retirement distributions tomorrow seem worth the taxes you may incur today. If you are at the age when a Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) is required from your traditional IRA(s), be sure to take your RMD by December 31. If you don’t, the IRS will assess a penalty of 50% of the RMD amount on top of the taxes you will already pay on that income. (While you can postpone your very first IRA RMD until April 1, 2017, that forces you into taking two RMDs next year, both taxable events.)1

Your tax situation. How many potential credits and/or deductions can you and your accountant find before the year ends? Have your CPA craft a year-end projection including Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). In years past, some business owners and executives didn’t really look into deductions and credits because they just assumed they would be hit by the AMT. The recent rise in the top marginal tax bracket (to 39.6%) made fewer high-earning executives and business owners subject to the AMT – their ordinary income tax liabilities grew. That calls for a closer look at accelerated depreciation, R&D credits, the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, incentive stock options, and certain types of tax-advantaged investments.2

Review any sales of appreciated property and both realized and unrealized losses and gains. Take a look back at last year’s loss carry-forwards. If you’ve sold securities, gather up cost-basis information. Look for any transactions that could potentially enhance your circumstances.

Your charitable gifting goals. Plan charitable contributions or contributions to education accounts, and make any desired cash gifts to family members. The annual federal gift tax exclusion is $14,000 per individual for 2016, meaning you can gift as much as $14,000 to as many individuals as you like this year tax-free. A married couple can gift up to $28,000 tax-free to as many individuals as they like. The gifts do count against the lifetime estate tax exemption amount, which is $5.45 million per individual and $10.9 million per married couple for 2016.3

You could also gift appreciated securities to a charity. If you have owned them for more than a year, you can deduct 100% of their fair market value and legally avoid capital gains tax you would normally incur from selling them.4

Besides outright gifts, you can plan other financial moves on behalf of your family – you can create and fund trusts, for example. The end of the year is a good time to review any trusts you have in place.

Your life insurance coverage. Are your policies and beneficiaries up-to-date? Review premium costs, beneficiaries, and any and all life events that may have altered your coverage needs.

Speaking of life events…did you happen to get married or divorced in 2016? Did you move or change jobs? Buy a home or business? Did you lose a family member, or see a severe illness or ailment affect a loved one? Did you reach the point at which Mom or Dad needed assisted living? Was there a new addition to your family this year? Did you receive an inheritance or a gift? All of these circumstances can have a financial impact on your life, the way you invest and plan for retirement, and how you wind down your career or business. They are worth discussing with the financial or tax professional you know and trust.

Lastly, did you reach any of these financially important ages in 2016? If so, act accordingly.

Did you turn 70½ this year? If so, you must now take Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from your IRA(s).

Did you turn 65 this year? If so, you are likely now eligible to apply for Medicare.

Did you turn 62 this year? If so, you can choose to apply for Social Security benefits.

Did you turn 59½ this year? If so, you may take IRA distributions without a 10% penalty.

Did you turn 55 this year? If so, you may be allowed to take distributions from your 401(k) account without penalty, provided you no longer work for that employer.

Did you turn 50 this year? If so, you can make “catch-up” contributions to IRAs (and certain qualified retirement plans).1,5

The end of the year is a key time to review your financial “health” & well-being. If you feel you need to address any of the items above, please feel free to give me a call.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – fool.com/retirement/general/2016/04/11/required-minimum-distributions-common-questions-ab.aspx [4/11/16]
2 – nerdwallet.com/blog/taxes/income-taxes/federal-income-tax-brackets/ [9/8/16]
3 – turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tools/tax-tips/Tax-Planning-and-Checklists/The-Gift-Tax-Made-Simple/INF12127.html [11/7/16]
4 – marketwatch.com/story/what-to-know-when-deducting-charitable-donations-2016-02-23 [2/23/16]
5 – merrilledge.com/Publish/Content/application/pdf/GWMOL/retirement-deadlines-checklist.pdf [11/7/16]

Should You Care What the Market Does Each Day?

November 18th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Financial News

A calm investor may realize better long-term returns than an overly concerned one.

moving-moneyInvestors are people, and people are often impatient. No one likes to wait in line or wait longer than they have to for something, especially today when so much is just a click or two away.

This impatience also manifests itself in the equities markets. When the S&P 500, Dow, or Nasdaq take a tumble, some investors grow uneasy. Their impulse is to sell, get out, and get back in later. If they give into that impulse, they may effectively pay a price.1

Across the twenty years ending in 2015, the annual return of the S&P 500 averaged 9.85%. During this same period, the average retail investor realized a yearly return of just 5.19%. (These numbers come from Dalbar, a respected investment analytics firm.) Why the difference? It could partly stem from impatience.1

Some investors may be worrying too much – and acting on those worries to their detriment. An investor who glances at a portfolio once per quarter may end up making more progress toward his or her goals than one who anxiously pores over financial websites every day.1

Too many investors make quick, emotional moves when the market dips. Logic often goes out the window when this happens, along with long-term perspective.1,2

Some long-term investors focus on buying shares of respected companies. Warren Buffett does. He has famously said that an investor should buy shares of a firm to own a piece of it, not merely in hopes that its share price will rise.2

Certain companies are so strong, their brands so renowned, that their shares weather downturns better than shares of other firms. In a raging bull market, “all boats rise” and many types of shares may perform well. Buffett often tries to invest in companies whose shares may perform well in both up and down markets. In especially bullish times, his returns have sometimes lagged the market, but chasing the return is not his objective.2

In contrast with Buffett’s patient long-term approach, investors who care too much about day-to-day market behavior may practice market timing, which is as much hope as strategy.2

To make market timing work, an investor has to be right twice. Ideally, he or she sells high, takes profit, and buys back in at some point of capitulation – a moment when bears throw in the towel and the market rallies off a bottom. How many investors can pull this off? This is hard even for Wall Street professionals. Mostly, retail investors buy high and sell low. Picture a shopper only buying an item at a department store when the price rises, then returning it when it goes on sale – but only getting the sale price back.1

Investors who alter their strategy in response to the headlines may end up changing it again after further headlines. While they may feel on top of things by doing this, their returns may suffer from their emotional and impatient responses.1

Nobel Laureate economist Gene Fama, Jr. once commented: “Your money is like soap. The more you handle it, the less you’ll have.” Anyone who has invested some of their money in equities would do well to keep his gentle warning in mind, especially at times when markets grow turbulent.1

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – thebalance.com/why-average-investors-earn-below-average-market-returns-2388519 [8/28/16]
2 – usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2016/01/30/3-reasons-you-shouldnt-worry-stock-market-2016/79304046/ [11/9/16]

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